Wednesday, February 23, 2011
On a pedestal in the shade of the ash tree at my childhood home, a large wooden bowl has just been filled with pipe tobacco. An old uncle happens by. Delighted, he fills his pipe, lights it, and draws on it with great contentment. Then he departs, disappearing into the atmosphere, which seems to be made more of memory than it is of air. I find a pipe in my hands, the one I keep on my desk that belonged to my father’s brother before he was killed in the second world war. But when I go to fill it, the wooden bowl on the pedestal contains damp, mostly decayed ash leaves. And so I clear the bowl with my hands. Soon thereafter, it’s filled with tobacco again, how or by whom, I don’t know. I’m joined then by a friend I haven’t seen since my father’s funeral in 1995. He sees my pipe and says my uncle’s name. I fill it, light it in his presence, and inhale. “Ghost notes,” is my reply.